Two guys in an unsteady duck boat, and two guys up above made up the Pelican Rapids “Army Corps of Engineers” team at the city dam last week. The crew was removing the final plank from the spillway, as Mill Pond is drawn down for the pending dam removal.
The Army Corps manages dams on bigger waters, but in Pelican, it was Terry Lammers and Ryan Huseby in the boat, attaching chains to the plank. Up above, city public works superintendent Brian Olson, with city crewman Jamie Teberg running the John Deere that lifted the final plank.
note the accumulation of zebra mussels on the Pelican Rapids city dam plank

City crews ‘pull the plug’ as Pelican River reduced to a trickle

By Louis Hoglund

The city street crew guys weren’t leaning on their shovels Sept. 8—they were paddling and splashing around the pond in a duck boat. 

This wasn’t an amusement park bumper boat spree. The Pelican Rapids city boys were doing Army Corps of Engineers-type work, removing the last  blockade holding back the piddly Pelican River.

The final step in drawing down the already drought-dwindled stream let loose what little water remained in Mill Pond. The river didn’t exactly gush through. It was more like a slow, steady pour from a keg of beer. 

The drawdown at the damsite began late summer, as the pond levels were lowered in anticipation of the dredging after the ground hardens for heavy equipment, late fall. The river restoration and dam modification- removal has been in the works for more than three years. 

Up above the Pelican dam, aboard a John Deere, city crew member Jamie Teberg pulled the final plank from the dam. Also overhead, city public works boss Brian Olson—supervising. 

Down below, an oversized pair of city guys earned their sea legs aboard an undersized row boat—hooking the chains to the big shovel of the John Deere. 

Let’s not tell the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but the duck boat was hardly Coast Guard approved. 

And—these workers weren’t wearing OSHA-code life jackets. Actually, they weren’t wearing life vests at all.

“We have our floatation devices right here,” said Terry Lammers, patting his stomach with a smile. 

“Yeah,” chimed in rowboat comrade Ryan Huseby. “We grew up around here, so we have flotation built right in.” 

Not that floatation would have been necessary. 

With the river down to just a few murky, algae-green inches by the dam, Huseby and Lammers were more at risk for swimmer’s itch—or gangrene–than drowning, if the overloaded boat went under. 

Another risk, if capsized into the muddy waters: Being eaten alive by zebra mussels, which cling abundantly to boulders and dam abutments which are exposed by the low water. But contrary to popular opinion, city workers are capable of safely out-manuevering and out-running zebra mussels. 

The drawdown of the city dam has been gradual—with help from Mother Nature. The drought of 2021 had already reduced the Pelican River to barely a creek at some locations, even before the city began drawing down the pond at the damsite.